Contest judges will select four winners; the fifth winner is selected by a community vote at the Solve For Tomorrow website, www.samsung.com/solvefortomorrow. The five winners will receive $100,000 in Samsung merchandise, a $7,000 grant from DirecTV and an Adobe software package worth $3,000. The remaining 10 schools don’t go away empty handed. For being selected as a finalist, each school is guaranteed to receive a minimum of $40,000 in Samsung products and Adobe software.
In a field of 1,600 entries, Freedom was selected as a contest finalist from a pool of 75 semi-finalists. Freedom environmental sciences teacher and Falcon Perch supervisor John Sierra submitted an application to the grant contest last year and was surprised to receive a Samsung technology starter kit in the mail.
“We get press releases about grant opportunities all the time, but I really liked Samsung’s contest since it asked schools to demonstrate how they are educating the community about protecting the environment,” Sierra said. “I submitted the application and completely forgot about it. But one day this package arrived with a laptop, a digital video camera and video editing software.
“The students jumped at the chance to be considered for a grand prize of more than $100,000. We shot hours of footage about the Falcon Perch and our mission, and then we edited it down to a two-minute video presentation. When I heard we were a finalist, I was in complete shock. So were the students.”
On Monday, a group of Sierra’s students spent the President’s Day holiday working in the 6,000-square-foot garden, which will be divided into microclimates featuring native, drought-resistant plants. The garden will comprise a native grass section, an oak woodland area and sections dedicated to desert, riparian and chaparral plants. The garden will also include a living wall, solar fountain, food towers, herb spiral and compost bins.
Students have been relying on recycled materials to help their garden grow. For example, Sierra and his students used leftover wood from a retired homecoming float to construct a tool shed. The students also collected 2-liter soda bottles to construct a living wall in which the bottles will be filled with soil and tied together along a fence. Water from a ground source will be drawn up the wall through the roots.
“This is a really cool project,” said junior Lucero Velasco. “I like contributing to my school and helping the environment.”
Dana Weigend agreed. “This little garden has been getting a lot of attention,” said the junior. “And this is only the beginning. I can’t wait for people to see it when it’s all done.”
The garden is still in its early stages. On Monday, Sierra and his students constructed a burrowing owl habitat under what will be the desert climate section of the garden, and a team helped build the garden’s first planter boxes. The garden’s first tree was planted earlier this month.
“We’re making progress,” said Sierra. “We’ve been fortunate enough to have a lot of materials donated. It’s exciting that this little idea for a school garden is finally taking shape and being nationally recognized. It’s more than I could have ever imagined. If we win one of the grand prize grants, the technology will be shared with the entire Freedom community. We’re really excited about this opportunity.”
To support Freedom High School in the Solve For Tomorrow contest, visit www.samsung.com/solvefortomorrow. Voting ends Monday, March 4 at 9 p.m.